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What does Toxic Masculinity mean?

From Frederik Müller

Toxic masculinity is English and means toxic, i.e. harmful masculinity. The concept describes a prevalent idea of ​​masculinity in our society and includes the behavior, self-image and relationship concepts of men as well as collective male structures. Men shouldn't show any weakness, at most anger, they should be tough, aggressive and not tender or loving, especially not with one another. Masculinity has to be proven again and again, e.g. B. by being placed in a hierarchy that is consolidated with tests of courage and humiliating rituals - in the school yard as well as in the armed forces.


Toxic masculinity begins in childhood and continues, not least in men's associations, as an organizational form at all levels of society. It does not only take place “among men”, but is also directed towards the outside world: in the form of violence against others, especially women and queers, and sexualised violence against people of all genders. It's always about sexuality: According to the assumptions of toxic masculinity, a man must always want and be able to have (heterosexual) sex. This is an important component of the rape culture and also reinforces the dangerous prejudice that men cannot be victims of sexual violence.

Anyone who has learned toxic masculinity lives with a deficiency: These people usually do not have a good relationship with their body, can just as little respect their own limits as those of others and have difficulty allowing, showing and processing feelings. We see consequences from this, for example, in the poor handling of heterosexual cis men with their own bodies, their negligence towards their own health and their tendency towards depression, addiction and suicide.

Because toxic men cannot handle their feelings alone, they usually outsource this task to others. Above all women and more feminine people than oneself are used like feeling machines that are supposed to sort and explain their own emotional world to them. For many straight men, friendships that women and queers lead with one another and with one another are unimaginable arenas of closeness and intimacy. They often find themselves unable to bring tenderness and vulnerability into a relationship on their own. Both cis and trans men can embody toxic masculinity, but these traits are not restricted to one gender. It is hardly possible to locate toxic masculinity only in individual identities, since a wide variety of genders use them to create masculinity, i.e. a masculine performance. Many find it difficult to distinguish between masculine performance and toxic, violent behavior.

But there are ways out! The Netflix series "Queer Eye" is like a gift from the queer world to everyone who remains in the swamp of toxic masculinity. Here five gay men show selected, mostly straight men, under the guise of a type change show, how they can shed their old, toxic behaviors and life concepts and become softer, more open and loving men, fathers, partners and friends. Masculinity per se is not driven out, because it is not the problem. In life beyond the reality series, you can't let yourself be saved by five gay boys, you have to take the first steps on your own: realize that it can't go on like this. And then, preferably with the support of other men, take responsibility for your own feelings.

This text first appeared in Missy 04/18.